Divination, Astrology, Neo-Cults, and Islam: Christianity Is No Longer in Vogue

European history, identity, and culture are inextricably linked to broadly defined Christianity. However, in recent decades, people are losing interest in the Christian religion. The nations of the Old Continent have significantly shifted towards deism, religious neutrality, and atheism. Moreover, one cannot talk about the religious landscape of Europe without mentioning neo- and para-religions.

Misconceptions about large families

This trend also affects the European Union as a whole – its member states were founded and shaped by Christianity, and many of the ideas that form the basis of the EU, such as human rights, European values, and dominant ethical systems, largely originate from this religion. The European Union itself, in some ways, mirrors the role played by the papacy, especially in the Middle Ages. At the same time, it must be noted that the Union also draws from other religions and cultures, such as Roman law from ancient Rome and the philosophical traditions of ancient Greece.

However, over the past few decades, European countries have become significantly secularized. To put it bluntly, they have shifted towards deism (belief in an unspecified and non-interventionist God), agnosticism (religious neutrality), and atheism (rejection of religiosity). Increasingly, people are losing interest in Christianity.

Although it remains significant and its followers constitute the main religious group almost everywhere in the EU, there is no longer a strict adherence to rituals, deference to church hierarchies in public matters, or regular attendance at Sunday Mass. What is widespread, however, is the celebration of Christian holidays and traditions even by atheists and agnostics, who view it as a way of cultivating their own culture.

Decline of Christianity: A woman surrounded by nature with a book and tattoos on her face
Photo: Enrique Bancalari / Unsplash

Decline of Christianity vs Islam in Europe

On the secularizing and laicization ground of Europe, a niche has emerged – one that, as expected, is quickly being filled by new religions, neo-religions, ideologies, and para-religious movements. Islam has become a significant component of the European ecosystem of ideas and religions, influencing up to 10% of the population in some countries. It is not surprising, given the significant immigration of Muslims from Islamic countries, which also have much higher fertility rates than Europeans. 

Although Islam in Europe is mainly fueled by immigrants from Asia and Africa, there is also a growing phenomenon of native Europeans converting to this religion.

When Gulnaz Sibgatullina [a researcher at the University of Amsterdam] began her research on European converts to Islam, she expected a niche group. Over time, she discovered that its growth was much greater than anticipated and found strong connections with supporters of right-wing, conservative ideologies

– reports the University of Amsterdam. 

It is also my intuition that Europeans converting to Islam are often radical conservatives dissatisfied with the weakening and increasingly submissive stance of the Church. According to the New York Center for Terrorism Studies, converts constituted 2% of the Muslim population in Europe in 2011. The Guardian reported in 2021 that approximately 5,000 British citizens convert to Islam annually, primarily women.

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Retreating Christianity

The regression of Christianity is also evident in the declining statistics of child baptisms, which correlate with a decreasing percentage of baptized individuals in each cohort and a generally very low birth rate among native European women. Immigrants from Christian nations in South America and Africa helped mitigate Europe’s declining Christian population .Joseph Campbell made a poignant observation about the state of Christianity in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces:

Where the poetry of myth is interpreted as biography, history, or science, it is killed. The living images become only remote facts of a distant past or distant heavens. […] When a culture begins to interpret its mythology in this way, life leaks out of it, temples become museums, and the link between the two points of view fades. This misfortune has certainly befallen the Bible and much of Christian worship

– Joseph Campbell.

Neo-Religions, Para-Religions, and Alternative Beliefs

The religious landscape of Europe would be incomplete without mentioning neo- and para-religions. Many individuals identifying as agnostics or atheists are keen on various forms of divination, astrology, New Age beliefs, reading horoscopes, and similar practices.

Esotericism, as a para-religious, unstructured belief system, is another example, along with the entire trend of quasi-religious approaches to psychedelics and experiences during “trips.” There is also a notable tendency to “return” to pre-Christian spirituality and mythology. Interestingly, even active Christians sometimes adopt practices like reading horoscopes or carrying good luck charms.

Conspiracy theories, while not religions themselves, exhibit para-religious traits. Consider movements that believe aliens created humanity and visited Earth. Incoherent analyses of ancient graphics allegedly prove that cosmic beings visited humanity thousands of years ago, or that dramatic events, such as the existence of a technologically advanced Atlantis, occurred in pre-recorded history but are hidden by historians.

Pseudo-medical belief systems like Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Reiki are experiencing a renaissance in the West. Under pressure from China, the World Health Organization has recognized the pseudoscientific concepts of TCM and incorporated them into the ICD system, while Reiki is promoted by members of the currently ruling coalition in Poland.

Decline of Christianity and Tailored Practices

All these neo-religious and para-religious beliefs sustain large businesses and generate substantial revenues. This includes various esoteric fairs where “magic stones” are sold, meetings with fortune tellers, pseudo medicinal TCM preparations, homeopathic remedies, and gadgets. There is also a thriving market for conspiracy theory books and organic farming, whose foundations and main principles often rely on esotericism, astrology, and homeopathy.

What distinguishes neopaganism, esotericism, astrology, hybrid Eastern beliefs, and other similar practices are distinguished by their poor integration, lack of clear ideals, and overall chaotic character. These practices, choices, and behaviors are often selectively and individually tailored “to oneself”– in contrast to classical religions, which are ultimately meant to build a sense of community.

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The Para-Religious Little Brother

The primary force undermining Christianity in Europe and creating space for Islam and neo-religions is the increasingly pervasive woke ideology. This ideology resembles an external observer of religion, unable to resist interference, ultimately becoming a form and system of quasi-religious activity itself. It has its preachers (activists), orders (NGOs), processions (parades), moral system (diversity, inclusivity), and social structure (extreme individualism, communal narcissism), as well as cardinal sins (transphobia, ableism, fatphobia, etc.).

It is intriguing that among woke adherents, many are white heterosexual men with Christian backgrounds who symbolically flagellate themselves with mantras of their guilt. This becomes understandable when we realize that in an environment where one can be accused of oppression for any minor “microaggression,” it is much better to preemptively forestall accusations.

There is a delight in self-accusation. By blaming ourselves, we feel that no one else has a right to blame us

– notes the literary prototype of narcissism from the 19th century, Dorian Gray.

Modern research shows that such virtue signaling through confessions of guilt is characteristic of the dark triad of personality traits: narcissism, sadism, and Machiavellianism.

Decline of Christianity: Two women sitting on the beach on a blanket with books, a drum, a skull, and a Buddhist singing bowl
Photo: RDNE Stock project / Pexels

Will Europe Truly Cease to Be Christian?

I share the view, along with many biologists studying the impact of religion on survival and biological evolution, that faith significantly aids in creating efficient groups and societies. Perhaps this is why so many people need some form of spirituality, though directly it is certainly driven by a desire to dispel emptiness, find meaning, or build bonds with others.

Simply put, it benefits mental health, and the rituals typical of religions help leave the past behind, essentially cleansing the psyche of unpleasant experiences far more effectively than the most expensive self-improvement programs, as scientific studies have shown.

Europe will most likely either return to its Christian roots, lean towards Islam – though this is hard to imagine – or forge a new functional religion, likely akin to Christianity. It will certainly not become truly atheistic, because, as Chantal Delsol notes in The End of the Christian World, atheistic societies “simply do not exist.

Societies do not consist of a few intellectuals but of people whose common sense tells them that there is a mystery behind the door, and who, if not believers, are at least agnostics.”

Translation: Klaudia Tarasiewicz

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Łukasz Sakowski


Lukasz Sakowski is a biologist, journalist and science blogger. He is a biology graduate, co-founder of the Polish March for Science, and organizer of the plebiscite for Biological Nonsense of the Year. He covers scientific, biological and social topics, among others. He writes for many Polish newspapers and portals.

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